Optimal Incentive Contracts in the Presence of Career Concerns: Theory and Evidence

52 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2004 Last revised: 18 Aug 2008

See all articles by Robert S. Gibbons

Robert S. Gibbons

Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Sloan School and Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Kevin J. Murphy

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business; USC Gould School of Law

Date Written: July 1991

Abstract

This paper studies career concerns -- concerns about the effects of current performance on future compensation -- and describes how optimal incentive contracts are affected when career concerns are taken into account. Career concerns arise frequently: they occur whenever the market uses a worker's current output to update its belief about the worker's ability and competition then forces future wages (or wage contracts) to reflect these updated beliefs. Career concerns are stronger when a worker is further from retirement, because a longer prospective career increases the return to changing the market's belief. In the presence of career concerns, the optimal compensation contract optimizes total incentives -- the combination of the implicit incentives from career concerns and the explicit incentives from the compensation contract. Thus, the explicit incentives from the optimal compensation contract should be strongest when a worker is close to retirement. We find empirical support for this prediction in the relation between chief-executive compensation and stock-market performance.

Suggested Citation

Gibbons, Robert S. and Murphy, Kevin J., Optimal Incentive Contracts in the Presence of Career Concerns: Theory and Evidence (July 1991). NBER Working Paper No. w3792. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=420290

Robert S. Gibbons (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Sloan School and Department of Economics ( email )

E52-432
MIT
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-0283 (Phone)
617-258-6855 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Kevin J. Murphy

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

BRI 308, MC 0804
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0804
United States
213-740-6553 (Phone)
213-740-6650 (Fax)

USC Gould School of Law

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
198
Abstract Views
2,591
rank
153,212
PlumX Metrics